We have been fairly slow to join the app-schooling revolution, but there are a few apps that we use to enrich our learning in our homeschool so when I was asked to contribute to a Schoolhouse Review Crew app schooling round-up, I thought I could at least share a list of what we find useful. I feel fairly certain I will learn more from this round-up than I will contribute, but sometimes that’s how it goes.
So without further ado, these are the apps we use on our regular basis in our homeschool along with a short description of how we use them. You’ll see that many of them are boring adult apps, but we have found some creative and really helpful ways to use them in our homeschool!
Our Favorite Apps for App-Schooling
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- The Amazon Kindle app – This may not even technically count, but I would feel remiss not to include it here. Living overseas, the cost of shipping books here is the most prohibitive thing about the literature-based homeschooling that we do. Using Kindle books for school has brought the world to our fingertips and saved us so much money. We usually read parts of at least three Kindle books for school on any given day; however, we rarely use our actual Kindle. We use our iPhones more often than not or our Android tablets. The kids just saved up for months and bought Kindle Fire tablets so they are using them more and more to read both their schoolwork and their fun books.
- Evernote – We use Evernote ALL.THE.TIME. The kids draft stories and research papers in Evernote notes because they are then accessible across all our devices and computers. This has saved us so much angst of not being able to get on the computer they started on because someone else is currently using it. The girls add to their stories even when we are out and about by borrowing my or my husband’s phones and adding a paragraph or two when inspiration strikes. We also save recipes, educational ideas, and even pdfs of curriculum in Evernote where they are taggable, searchable, backed up in the Cloud, and accessible across our devices when we are traveling.
- Songify – We use Songify to help us with memorization. My kids remember songs, and if I really want them to remember something, I better find a way to make it a song. I often make songs up for things we need to learn, but if I’m feeling tired, lazy, or uninspired, we use Songify. You read whatever it is you want to learn into the microphone and it makes a song for it. You can choose different tunes and styles and then save them as mp3s which you can listen to on ipods, phones, or mp3 players. You can also make CDs from them. We’ve used Songify for both Bible memory and foreign language vocabulary so far. The kids love it!
- Voice Memos – We use voice memos to record our reading and for narrations. Sometimes I will record myself doing read-alouds because I have kids who want to hear things over and over again and my voice gets tired. I also let the kids record themselves reading aloud so they can hear what they sound like. One time listening to their own mumbling, reading too fast, or strange intonations accomplishes more than ten corrections from me! I’ve also found that voice memos can breathe new life into Charlotte Mason-esque narrations. Sometimes, my kids get tired of them and don’t want to tell me things back. Handing them a recording device to talk into for their narration changes everything instantly! And I enjoy listening to them a couple years later. It’s amazing how much their voices change as they age! Sometimes, we even send them to Grandma!
- Goodreads – Goodreads is for book reports what Voice Memos is for narration! My kids beg me to let them write summaries and their thoughts about the books they read on Goodreads. I don’t tell them that they are writing book reports.
- The Bible App – This one is useful for obvious reasons, but our favorite reasons for using it sometimes instead of our “real” Bibles are that we can compare versions quickly and easily and that it includes audio. My second child especially loves audio and will listen to the Bible for hours on end using this app while coloring or sewing.
- Purple Player – We are huge fans (and affiliates) of Signing Time. Rachel Coleman has a teacher’s heart and is so gifted at teaching kids so much more than just signing. We have a lot of their DVDs but when they started selling their products digitally using Purple Player, it quickly became one of our most used apps. We love pretty much everything Signing Time puts out and have even backed the last several projects on Kickstarter. We highly recommend Rachel and the TreeSchoolers, Potty Time, Baby Signing Time, and all the regular Signing Time projects including the wonderful Christmas one and their newest phase of putting words together to make sentences.
- Camera – So, just as Goodreads is for book reports what Voice Memos is for narration, the Camera app is for nature walks and nature journals! My girls have never enjoyed Charlotte Mason nature walking or journalling…until I handed them my phone and told them to use the camera and take pictures to write about. All of a sudden, it’s the best activity ever. I tell them to find five interesting things, take pictures of them, and then they use our publishing software to write about the pictures they took. It works like a charm every time (and they are learning page layouts and sometimes photo editing too). They also use the video feature to act out favorite books they’ve read. We are still working on our edits of their dramatized version of The Maisy Files: Maisy and the Missing Mice by Elizabeth Woodrum. If we ever get it done, Ms. Woodrum has already given us permission to share it! Even if we don’t get it done, the process of adapting it for a play and then recording the scenes has been a priceless learning activity.
BONUS APP: I’m making this a bonus because we haven’t done it yet. But it’s such a brilliant idea, I just have to share it. A dear friend just recently shared on facebook that she was looking for a way to convert her son’s Lego creations on the book of Matthew into easy print sketches for his journal and found the free app Sketch Me. I love this idea for capturing all sorts of 3D hands-on learning and recording it and even expounding on it in a journal! The picture below is her son’s Lego creation for this verse: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
As you can see, most of these apps are not specifically designed for children or for app-schooling, but we have found ways to use them that we feel really enhance our kids’ learning. I hope some of our ideas will spark your creativity! Please make sure to hop over and check out all the other posts in this round-up as well! And please, let us know in the comments how you use apps in your family to enhance learning and to make it even more fun!